Jeremy Zucker didn’t set out to be a career musician. Music was something he always loved, something he did on the side, an unrealistic dream. Except that it wasn’t all that unrealistic. He’d been releasing music throughout college, and by the time he entered his senior year at Colorado College (where he was pre-med, studying molecular biology), he’d been offered multiple deals, and signed with Republic Records.
The 24-year-old New Jersey native released his debut EP, Beach Island, in 2015. In 2019, he and Chelsea Cutler released their project, brent, and the duo ended up on stage on the Today show. He’s sold-out stages across Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia, and his single, “comethru” is Gold Certified, with over 1 billion streams on Spotify. His 15 million+ monthly Spotify listeners place him in the top 200 most listened to artists in the world.
In honor of his debut album release, love is not dying, Zucker talked to L’Officiel USA about introspection, being inspired by Brooklyn, and his unique (and lonely) creative process.
Where are you isolating?
I'm isolating in Brooklyn with my roommate, you know, just getting by.
What have you been up to during quarantine?
A lot of writing music and a lot of album promo. I've been having to sign a lot of physical copies of the album, I've been editing videos and making a bunch of stuff, getting ready for release week.
Tell me a little bit about your music background and how you got started.
I've been making music my whole life. I started taking piano lessons when I was like five years old and by the time I was nine or 10, I hated piano and was obsessed with Blink-182. I convinced my parents to let me stop playing piano and pick up guitar instead. As soon as I started playing guitar, I started covering Blink-182 songs and it wasn't that much of a leap to then writing my own songs, dabbling in computer music and doing a lot of stuff in GarageBand. In high school, I was in a couple of acoustic rock bands. I went to college and majored in molecular biology because at that point, I didn't think that I was really going to be doing music, it was always something that I did on the side. It was secretly my dream to be an artist and musician, but I didn't think it was realistic.
In college I was like, plan A is to go to med school, I'll keep making music on the side and I'll try my best to make something happen, but if it doesn't, at least I have a solid career to fall back on. Things just worked out where I started releasing a lot of music in college that really, really slowly and steadily gained a lot of traction. By the time I was a junior, I had a couple of record deal offers and I signed before my senior year. I ended up being back and forth between school and playing shows across the country, opening for Lauv in the US and Europe. By the time I graduated, I was able to headline my own US tour that fall. That was two years ago when I graduated college, and I've been at it ever since.
What is your creative process and has it changed since you first started making music?
My creative process has always been really subconscious. I never follow a formula, I never really have a plan when I sit down to make a song. I mess around and then usually something catches my ear and I follow where it takes me. I listen to the emotions that come with certain chords in certain sounds. I'm producing all my own stuff, so it's just me in a room alone with my computer and a couple of instruments and a couple synthesizers. I create this melodic background and this sonic landscape that makes me feel a certain way, pull at that thread, and follow where that feeling takes me. I end up unearthing feelings and subconscious thoughts or things that I'm thinking about. In that process, I refine and refine and refine and edit and fix stuff, take stuff out, put new stuff in, but all the while I'm looking at it from a scientific perspective as well, where I know things need to be a very specific way. The whole time, it's almost like molding clay or something; I'm chipping away and chipping away, taking out parts precisely until it ends up exactly what I want it to be. At the end, it's a very accurate representation of my emotions during a particular time and the things that I went through. It's this very weird, subconscious, unintentional but intentional process.
Tell me a little bit about your debut album, love is not dying.
The album is a lot of introspection and it really outlines my whole life this past year and a half from the perspective of my mental health, my emotions, and my relationships. I started writing it when I got back from my first US tour last fall and wrote the first couple of songs in my bedroom in my first apartment in Brooklyn after graduating. It was a little stuffy, didn't really have much space, my studio was in my bedroom and as you can imagine a typical bedroom in a low rent Brooklyn apartment, there isn’t much room for anything else if you have a studio in there also. I wrote the first couple of songs, then did a headline tour in Europe. Then I was back in Brooklyn and wrote a couple more songs. At the end of this past summer, I moved into a better neighborhood in Brooklyn and started renting a studio space that was separate from my apartment. That's where I started working on the second half of the album.
My process is very slow. I'll sit in a room five, six days a week and every day for hours be starting ideas and scrapping them because they don't feel right. A couple of weeks will go by—it will take me a week or two or three to find an idea that I like enough to actually start working on and start recording. It can be a really grueling process, so my space is really important to me. There's a lot of frustration that comes with being such a perfectionist in the way that I am with music, so if I can keep every other part of my life in order and inspiring, then I can stay really level headed when I'm making music and not get down on myself if I feel like I'm not producing stuff fast enough, or whatever it is.
What is your favorite song off the album and why?
A lot of the songs are really special to me. If I had to pick one, I think it would be "Julia" just because it's such a specific story and it's so important to me. It's my favorite song production-wise that I've ever worked on, and it's a really true story. Yeah, I think "Julia" is my favorite.
What inspires you? Where or what do you get inspiration from?
It largely comes from my relationships and my surroundings. Living in Brooklyn definitely inspires a lot, it inspired this whole album, as well as being on the road and seeing all kinds of different places, meeting with fans and people from around the world. Obviously being a fan of other artists and listening to their music always inspires my production, but it's really just what feels right inside. I try not to look outwards for what's inspiring the music, it's very much inward-facing. It's very much a train of thought, spiralling, internal dialogue.
If you could collaborate with anybody who would it be?
There are no collaborations on the album, and since I do work so much in solitude, there's a lot of artists that I respect that I'd like to collaborate with, but I don't know if I would, if that makes sense. But Paul Jason Klein from Lany and Matty Healy from The 1975, those are two artists and writers that I really look up to.
What are your hobbies outside of making music?
Especially during quarantine, I have been cooking a lot. Decorating and cleaning, as lame as that sounds. I'm really into film, I direct and edit and come up with most of the ideas for my music videos. All of that keeps me pretty busy.
What's next for you?
It's a tricky question right now. We're trying to see how and when I can tour, but really all that I can do is keep creating from my home until all this stuff blows over.